Journalism and PR

Guardian journalist Nick Davies told the committee: “The world is full of people who would like to control the flow of information.” He said the rise of the PR industry means: “They are winning the information war. The liars are winning.”

That’s from The Guardian, in evidence to the House of Lords culture committee, on the state of investigative journalism. While it’s a problem generally, it’s particularly acute in the technology sector, as TechCrunch note in the article Facebook PR: tonight we dine in hell.

But increasingly what they do is nothing more than attempt to spin or grossly misrepresent what it is we do. For many of them, helping journalists/bloggers/writers get access to accurate information is secondary. It’s all about controlling a narrative — by any means necessary.

I think this is the core of the message: that PR people, like their brethren in Marketing, have forgotten that their aim is presenting accurate information—albeit with a positive spin—rather than baseless statement. (Though Marketing goes for hyperbole, PR for bland beige).

This is a huge, incessant problem. Marketing talks of “authentic” and “real” while viewing the delivery rather than the message as ways to achieve these aims. So we get pseudo-scientific crap in make-up adverts delivered by people in lab coats rather than any form of truth or fact.

In this escalating war for attention, journalists are fooled into hyperbole just to compete, losing sight of the serious news democracy needs to keep functioning well. We descend into light-weight vacuous stories dressed up as important. Investigative journalism loses out in this climate: long-form, slow-boil news is both hard to produce and hard to digest.

This is one reason I’m utterly desperate to give organisations like the Guardian money, and so incredibly frustrated by the difficulty in doing so if I don’t want a load of dead trees delivered to my door each day. I know I’ll not get through most of the produce—my attention span feels shorter than it used to be—but I understand it’s value.

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